An excerpt from a conversation held today with my daughter, H, who is 7:
TS: What did you learn about in school today?
H7: The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
TS: Did they tell you about what happened, or also why it happened?
TS: So what did the teacher say about why Jesus died?
H7: That He died so that we could go to heaven.
TS: And why did Jesus have to die so that we could go to heaven?
H7: There was none other good enough / to pay the price of sin. / He only could unlock the gate of heaven / and let us in.
Three cheers to good children’s hymns.
P.S. This is a state primary school. Three cheers for some schools not being too PC to tell it how it is!
28 March — Palm / Passion Sunday: 10.30 am Holy Communion, at 10th Fareham Scout Group HQ [map]
30 March — Lent Catechetical Service: 7.45 pm Holy Communion, at 30 Furneaux Gardens [map]
2 April — Good Friday: 3 pm Tenebrae Vespers, at 10th Fareham Scout Group HQ [map]
4 April — Easter Sunday: 10.30 am Holy Communion, at 10th Fareham Scout Group HQ [map]
for anyone trying to understand (or explain) God’s method of action in sending His Son to a rebellious people. This is a true story, told by Kenneth Bailey as part of his discussion of the (falsely) so-called Parable of the Wicked Tenants. (Why falsely, that’s another post for another time. If you can’t wait, read Bailey.)
One night in the early 1980s, [king Hussein of Jordan] was informed by his security police that a group of about seventy-five Jordanian army officers were at that very moment meeting in a nearby baracks plotting a military overthrow of the kingdom. The security officers requested permission to surround the barracks and arrest the plotters. After a somber pause the king refused and said, “Bring me a small helicopter.” A helicopter was brought. The king climbed in with the pilot and himself flew to the barracks and landed on its flat roof. The king told the pilot, “If you hear gun shots, fly away at once without me.”
Unarmed, the king then walked down two flights of stairs and suddenly appeared in the room where the plotters were meeting and quietly said to them:
“Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that you are meeting here tonight to finalize your plans to overthrow the government, take over the country and install a military dictator. If you do this, the army will break apart and the country will be plunged into civil war. Tens of thousands of innocent people will die. There is no need for this. Here I am! Kill me and proceed. That way, only one man will die.”
After a moment of stunned silence, the rebels as one, rushed forward to kiss the king’s hand and feet and pledge loyalty to him for life.
(Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, 418)
Of course, in the case of the incarnation, the ending was different. The rebellious people did not “kiss the Son” (Ps. 2:12), but killed him.
In the case of king Hussein, his self-emptying—you could call it his magnanimity—averted the coup and the bloodshed and won back the loyalty of the rebels.
In the case of the Son of God, His self-emptying—His magnanimity—provoked no such show of faithfulness. Instead, He was crucified, died and was buried. Yet, by the power of God, His death in the hands of the rebels was not the end of the story. Rather, it was precisely by dying, rather than avoiding death in a courageous game of chicken, that the rebels were one over.
And so, even today, risen and ascended, He keeps walking into the barrack rooms of our rebellion, spreading His pierced hands and feet, and saying quietly: Ladies, gentlemen, it has come to my attention that you insist on walking into a certain and eternal death in a doomed attempt at a coup. Here I am. I have already died that death. And by my death, the kingdom is yours without any further bloodshed. Will you not take it?
As I pointed out in the previous post, Jack Kilcrease has written an interesting post about God’s choice of the weak over the strong in the OT—e.g. Jacob over Esau—and this being a key fact in understanding the doctrine of election. Well worth reading and munching on.
Having munched, this thought presented itself to me concerning God’s choice of the younger over the older. There’s another fairly consistent theme in the OT as well.
More often than not, the younger has some obvious character flaw: Jacob, Joseph and Moses spring to mind (Abel is a counter-example, I suppose). No one but no one can say that Jacob was chosen because he was such a good and godly guy, or that Joseph was such an obvious candidate for the Lord’s service. The one thing that distinguishes Moses favourably is that fact that he at least realised that he wasn’t exactly the prime candidate for God’s attentions.
This theme is played out in a very obvious way in the parable of the Prodigal. The degenerate immoral and fallen younger brother is chosen over the dutiful and worthy older brother. In the process of election and bestowal of grace, not only is the older-stronger/younger-weaker dynamic reversed, but so is that of virtue. Now it’s the older brother who is sulking outside, while the younger one is the one who humbles himself.
Which is precisely what happens with Israel and the Gentiles, obviously. The sinful Gentiles believe the Gospel while godly Israel is left sulking outside. Yet the Father goes out to seek and to persuade. And so Esau is reconciled to Jacob, the brothers receive Joseph’s blessing, Aaron assists Moses. And the remnant of Israel will return to the Lord.
There’s a great post by Jack Kilcrease on what we can and can’t say about election and predestination here. I would be fascinated to see what those of a Calvinist persuasion make of it. Go and have a look, and if you are a Calvinist, chip in.
A double calamity has befallen our age in the form of an overabundance of literary production. In the first place, the frightful maliciousness of the writing wears out most readers, and the pens of many are so contentious that they scarcely understand their own writing—and yet for them to know something is to write about it. And then add to this evil a second pest, the love of novelty. For the zeal for something new has so blinded the eyes of many that they show their loathing for the writings of great men by simply referring to them as old-fashioned, and they seek out those emerging authors who must be read not on the basis of how well they haver written but how recently.
Foreword to M. Chemnitz, The Lord’s Supper (1590 edn.).